Thursday, January 8, 2009

From The Cage to WOW

In the pilot for the original Star Trek series, broadcast in the early sixties (first called "The Cage," then remixed and repackaged as "The Menagerie"), the crew meets up with a fascinating race of big-headed beings known as the Talosians who have the ability to make illusions seem so real that people don't realize what they're experiencing is an illusion.  The narrative arc of "The Menagerie" involves Spock getting Christopher Pike, his former captain,  back to Talos IV, the home of the Talosians.  Because of their power of illusion, Talos IV has been deemed too dangerous for humans and has been ordered quaranteened. But Captain Pike is horribly disfigured from an  accident and is hardly human anymore: he can't speak, he can't talk and most of his body has disappeared into a huge space-age closed wheelchair.  Thanks to Spock, he winds up living on Talos IV where the Talosians, who have already given a disfigured girl the illusion of beauty, can give him the illusion of a healthy body and and Eden-like world in which to live.  And so they live, we are left to suppose, the two disfigured ones, happily ever after in their virtual world.

Frivolous science fiction, you say?  Think again.  Estimates say that from 5-20% of those who play video games are disabled.  Low estimated suggest that  525, 000 disabled users play World of Warcraft. There's a large deaf community that plays, as well as a number with severe physical motor disabilities such as Spinal Muscular Atrophy, as well as smaller visual impairment disorders and learning disorders.  A community group called Able Gamers is specifically targeted at disabled gamers, and acts as an advocacy group to gamemakers.  One gamer with Multiple Sclerosis who is paralyzed on one side of his body wrote, in a blog, "I feel like blowing things up and killing orcs.  That always makes me feel better.  Gaming therapy--mmmmmm."   

There's a great post with lots of information about disability and gaming and a link to a very moving video of a disabled gamer, Mike Phillips, who has spinal muscular atrophy, playing a game. 

And also see:  One Thumb to Rule Them All:

1 comment:

  1. Interesting. And science fiction rarely strikes me as frivolous. Even if it's bad, it's interesting to note the ways in which what is imagined mimics our society's hopes and fears.